If you watch any amount of professional football and basketball, this trick is used very often. One team gets on a roll and just cannot do anything wrong. The other team calls a time out. And, so often (not necessarily always), the scoring momentum dies when play is resumed.
In pool, you have experienced time periods when you were in the “groove”, playing in the “zone”. You get down on the shot to start your inning and suddenly the table is cleared. You make the break, pocket a ball, and you just go on, sinking balls and getting shape with seemingly no effort. Even when you miss, on coming back to the table, the balls drop like rain.
If your opponent lives his sportsmanship, he silently suffers as you advance steadily towards the match win – even though it is a minor form of torture. High standards of sportsmanship require him to be very complimentary about playing so well.
But when your opponent is a pool hustler, he is not the slightest bit interested in sportsmanship. He seriously wants to win, and so takes immediate steps to short-circuit your “zone” playing. He only needs to nudge, push, or shove you out of that groove to get your game back to “normal”.
One of the easiest tricks to use is to make a show out of leaving the playing area. He can do this while you are shooting, or during an inning change.
First, he’ll busy himself for a minute making his area neat, and then stand up, stretch, and then walk away. If you are still shooting, he only needs you to notice his departure. If it’s his turn (especially when he has not shot), he asks for a break. Here are several rhythm-breaking choices:
- Goes to the bathroom and stays there for at least five to ten minutes.
- Goes to the bar to order a drink and just happens to meet a long-lost buddy on the way back.
- Gets in an animated conversation with someone else, and then asks you to wait a minute while he continues talking.
- Goes over to another pool table to watch someone else shoot.
Of course, game play must pause to await his re-appearance. If you are a kindly pool player, you nod acceptance to his request to depart, and wait for his return. If you are shooting, his urgent need to a bathroom break is “reasonable”, and out of courtesy, you stop shooting. You settle down for what should be a short wait.
What he has done is put you in a holding pattern. If you can restart shooting within a couple minutes, you can probably continue going good – but he won’t allow that. That’s why he extends the normal time to several minutes. He needs you to get slightly irritated over the match delay. And that is when your groove flattens out to “normal” playing.
Unless there is a specified limit in the competition rules, there isn't much you can do to stop him. However, there is a passive way and an active response you can take.
The passive approach allows him to proceed with this trick. First of all, do NOT settle down in your chair and attempt to patiently await his return. With your stick in hand, return to the table. Mentally pick up the game and starting playing the table with your imagination.
Where the cue ball would stop, you go over play from there. Get down on the shot and take practice strokes for each cue ball position. Mentally play the game through to the win. This keeps your head focused on playing. When he finally return, it is very easy to pick up your zone and continue winning.
The active approach is very useful when you have a two or three game lead. As he leaves the playing area, walk with him. If he goes to the restroom, you are conversing with him as he attempts to take a leak. If he goes to the bar, you order a soda or water. Stick close. If he talks with someone, you are there, hanging on his shoulder, being the considerate listener.